When it comes to ‘selling’ and ‘sales’ there is a most powerful tool that is, all to often, forgotten, overlooked or ignored. Something really simple and straightforward that is completely underused and pushed to the back of our minds as we become ‘lost in the moment’ of adrenalin levels surging upwards as we push for that all-important next sale.
To what am I referring? Well simply this; just pausing, waiting, taking a moment and allowing adequate and appropriate space for all involved in the process at that time to think about, consider and feel the decision that is before them.
When delivering speeches one of the early learns for most presenters is to give an audience the opportunity to take in, absorb and appreciate that which has been said - in other words to stop talking and pause.
When speakers have delivered a series of facts, a hard hitting story or even a run of rib splittingly funny anecdotes, the listener needs time to take it all in, to assimilate and to understand what they have heard - in this way they will better appreciate and understand the content and be more likely to be swayed by the information towards the presenters desired outcome – this is equally true for all the stakeholders that are those involved with a sales scenario, including the person doing the selling.
So just how can we benefit from the correct use of silence in the context of selling and sales? Well here are several suggestions…
1. Before you go into a sales meeting or presentation find a quiet area or return to your car and turn your mobile phone off. Now simply sit, or stand, quietly, without distraction, breathing slowly and evenly. Actually picture yourself making this sales presentation, describing the key features and benefits of your product or service, and be clear in your mind about the outcome you are seeking – for example is it an order, a further meeting or just to have raised awareness of what you are presenting on.
2. Before you start your presentation there will inevitably be a period of informal conversation, or ‘small talk’, always use this to ask about the other person and leave enough of a pause for them to respond – this way you demonstrate that you are interested in them and you may learn something about the prospective buyers situation that you didn’t already know and that is relevant to the problem that your product or service helps to solve.
3. During the presentation, once you have shared all the marvellous things about your product or service and before taking questions say something like… “Please take a minute or two to consider what you have heard, talk amongst yourselves and then ask any questions that you may have”. This gives you a chance to take a drink of water, re-centre your mind and just let the adrenalin levels in your body lower slightly.
4. You will be driven to fill any silence that ensues, fight that urge and also after questions leave a gap for the potential buyer to fill. Never be panicked by a silence into making a further unpractised statement, offering a discount or assuming a lack of interest in what you are talking about. The opposite could be true.
5. Once your presentation is over return to the quiet place that you used beforehand, or another one if that one is unavailable. Quietly contemplate the presentation, the feedback from the prospective client and make a few notes for yourself to work on the next time – this way your likelihood of delivering a successful sales presentation each time will improve.
The above can be adapted and applied in all sales situations, be it a showroom, a one-to-one conversation or a presentation to a collection of representatives from a potential buyer. Each would require a slightly differing approach, however the basic fundamentals remain the same – giving the potential buyer enough thinking space to say yes!
If you work in a showroom then it would be necessary to take the opportunity before your shift starts, and at breaks, to have a period of quiet contemplation to prepare yourself for the conversations ahead and to review the conversations already had with potential purchasers. The opportunities for using pauses and offering potential buyers time to talk among themselves remain and offer the same potential benefits.
Silence should be considered as a friend and as an ally, one that has the potential to be really useful and to deliver a growth in sales. While continuing to labour the same points, often by repeating them to fill a silence, might just drive the potential purchaser away as they start to feel pressurised and pushed into making a decision, in which case they may well look elsewhere for a less intense experience.
We should be looking upon silence as the spotlight that illuminates that which has gone before, allowing that content and information to shine, while the potential purchaser becomes better and more fully informed, comprehending that which they have heard.
In our approach to any conversation around sales silence is to be regarded as our friend and should no longer be cast to the backs of our minds and in fact brought to the forefront. By incorporating silences in the sales process we offer the purchaser greater opportunity to engage and in this way all the stakeholders involved will, once the opportunity has concluded, depart, feeling they have had an informative, intelligent and inclusive experience.
By Ben Jackson, who has many years experience in sales and is a member of Toastmasters International. Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 313,000 in more than 14,650 clubs in 126 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are nearly 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7000 members. To find your local club. Follow Toastmasters on Twitter.